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a former province and one-time "independent state" within the Republic of the Congo

location of Katanga

Covering 191,879 square miles, Katanga is rich in cobalt, radium, copper, tin, uranium, zinc, and other minerals, and once supplied about half of the Belgian Congo's income. Its capital, as both province and "independent state," was Elisabethville.

Katanga seceded as a province of Congo on July 9, 1960, and declared itself an independent republic on July 11. Secessionist leader Moishe Tshombé became President of the national government. Katanga's independence was not recognized by any other nation, but the presence of many Belgian-owned enterprises in the province meant that Tshombé was able to count on Belgian officers and soldiers for assistance.

In March 1961, Congolese leaders discussed a plan to replace the Congo's six provinces with a confederation of 20 sovereign states. After Tshombé walked out of the meeting, Congolese soldiers arrested him. He agreed to end Katanga's secession, but reversed himself after his release.

In September 1961, fighting broke out between Katangese and United Nations forces, the latter having been sent in an effort to end the secessionist crisis. UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld tried to arrange a cease-fire, but was killed in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia on September 18, 1961. Tshombé and Congolese Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula held meetings in 1961 and 1962 in an attempt to end Katanga's secession, to no avail.

In July 1962, the Congolese Parliament divided Katanga into two provinces (North and South) to try to weaken Tshombé's strength. In August, UN Secretary-General U Thant proposed a plan for reunifying Congo. Tshombé expressed support for the plan, but fighting began anew between Katangese and United Nations forces. UN troops captured Lubumbashi and Likasi, the chief mining centers of the province.

Tshombé ended Katanga's secession in January 1963.


World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, 1979

See Also

Dag Hammarskjöld
U Thant

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The Robinson Library >> Congo (Zaire)

This page was last updated on 12/31/2018.